Prayer

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Prayer, with fasting and almsgiving, is one of the three "pillars of piety" (Matthew 6:1-18). The Orthodox Church teaches that all of the virtues and powers of God are attained primarily by prayer.

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Personal and private prayer

Personal prayer must be in secret. In the spiritual tradition of the Church, Christ’s words "go into your room" have been interpreted both, literally, and also to mean that the praying person must enter within himself, a unification of the mind and the heart, within the soul.

Prayer must be brief. It must be simple and regular. It can be the totally silent inner attitude of the soul before God, the fulfillment of the words of the psalmist: ‘’Commune with your hearts... and be silent. Be still, and know that I am God.’’ Spiritual teachers warn against being too long and demanding of the Lord because prayer directed to God in faith is answered. One may get what they want but should not have. God knows best what is needed, and one should trust him in prayer, "Give what is needed, 0 Lord. Thy will be done." The teaching of Christ on how to pray, is the Our Father.

Unceasing prayer

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians says, "pray without ceasing", and to the Romans, "be constant in prayer." This has been interpreted by Orthodox tradition in two different ways. One is to have regular times for prayer which are never skipped, a prayer rule. The other is to have a brief prayer verse, usually the Jesus Prayer which is repeated over and over, literally hundreds of times throughout the day and night, until it becomes perpetually implanted in the heart, as a continual presence in the soul, calling out to the Lord.

Intercessory prayer

Orthodoxy teaches that Jesus, in praying to his Father, prayed for his people, and he is the only competent intercessor for mankind before God. In his resurrected glory, he prays eternally to his Father on behalf of all. In and through Christ, Orthodox Christians become competent to intercede before God. In the name of Jesus, Christians are authorized to pray for each other and for all creation. All prayer is to God the Father, through his Son, in his Holy Spirit, even if not mentioned in the words of the prayer.

God, outside of time, knows all things eternally and takes into consideration each act in his overall plan. Even before the creation of the world, God has heard, or rather, more accurately, eternally hears, the prayers of his people. The Lord does not hear prayers after something is finished, because for God there is no before and after at all. God knows what is asked even prior to it being asked, for he knows all of life in one divine act of all-embracing vision and knowledge. Prayers, even for those who are dead, are heard and considered by God before they are said. Failure to pray is also known to God from eternity, and takes its effect in God's plan of salvation.

Liturgical prayer

In the Orthodox Church, liturgical prayer is the Church's participation in Christ's perpetual prayer in the presence of God in the Kingdom of heaven, offering his "body" and "bride" to the Father in the Spirit. It is the official prayer of the formally assembled Church, the body of Christ, and the bride of Christ.

In the liturgical prayer of the Church, one should make every effort to join oneself fully with all the members of the body. This is not a time for personal prayer, one should pray with the Church. Not to forgets one’s own needs and desires, not just become a voice in the crowd, rather one should unite one’s own person, one’s own needs and desires, with all those who are present, with the church throughout the world, throughout time, with the angels and saints, with Christ Himself in the one great "divine" and "heavenly liturgy" of all creation before God.

Prayer for the dead

The deceased are remembered at a special service called "Saturday of the Souls" held four times a year: the two Saturdays prior to Great Lent, the first Saturday of Great Lent, and the Saturday before Pentecost. Orthodox believe that it is the duty of the living to remember and pray for the deceased. A general prayer is said for specific individuals and all unknown souls who have no one to pray for them. Parishoners bring small dishes of kollyva to the church and submit a list of first names of the deceased loved ones to the priest.


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